Cumberland Times-News

September 26, 2013

Deja vu

Guess what? Postal Service wants another rate increase


Cumberland Times-News

— Haven’t we read this before? “Postal Service wants stamp price increase; Congress inaction cited.”

That was the storyline again Wednesday when the postal Board of Governors said it wanted to raise the price of a first-class stamp by 3 cents, citing the agency’s “precarious financial condition” and the uncertain prospects for postal overhaul legislation in Congress.

For years, Congress has been on a do-nothing track to  do something to make the Postal Service solvent. Session after session ends in inaction.

The rate proposal  made Wednesday must be approved by the independent Postal Regulatory Commission. If the commission accepts it, the increase would take effect Jan. 26.

As part of the rate increase request, the cost for each additional ounce of first-class mail would increase a penny to 21 cents while the price of mailing a postcard would rise by a cent, to 34 cents. The cost to mail a letter to an international destination would jump 5 cents to $1.15. The Postal Service also said it would request price increases totaling 5.9 percent for bulk mail, periodicals and package service rates.

Meanwhile, what is Congress working on to resolve the financial problems of the mail system? The Associated Press reports that a bipartisan bill in the Senate would end Saturday mail delivery and phase out most door-to-door delivery. The agency says ending Saturday mail delivery would save $2 billion each year. But many lawmakers, along with postal worker unions, oppose such changes, saying they would inconvenience customers.

The Postal Service also is seeking to reduce its $5.6 billion annual payment for future retiree health benefits. It missed two of those payments in 2012, one deferred from the previous year, and is expected to miss another at the end of this month, when its fiscal year ends. The Senate bill would change the method by which the retiree health costs are calculated, as well as allow the agency to ship alcoholic beverages and compete with private shippers.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved a bill this year that would allow the Postal Service to gradually shift from door-to-door delivery to cluster box and curbside delivery. No Democrats voted for the measure.

Forgive our negativity, but we won’t be surprised to see another one or two postage stamp increase requests next year — again, because of the gridlock in Washington.